Trust Litigation

A trustee has a significant responsibility to manage the assets of a trust. If the settlor failed to appoint someone, the court will need to step in to appoint someone in the role of trustee. This is also the case if appointed trustees fail or are accused of breach of fiduciary duty and removed from this situation. A trustee has to voluntarily accept their position and after they have accepted this role the trustee cannot resign without the consent of the court or all the beneficiaries.

Understanding Fiduciary Duties

One of the most common reasons to hire a Maryland trust litigation lawyer is because you believe the trustee is involved in breach of fiduciary duty. The trustee will hold legal title to the property inside the trust which means that he or she also has a fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries who also hold that title. This means the trustee needs to be very clear about the terms of the trust and must distribute property in accordance with the desires and instructions of the trust creator.

There are three primary jobs of a trustee including administration, distribution and investment. Breaching these fiduciary duties is a serious matter and one that might prompt beneficiaries, either a singular person or the entire group, to consult with a Maryland trust litigation attorney.

As a trust litigation attorney in Maryland can tell you, these cases can be lengthy and costly and should not be brought without careful foresight and conversations with a knowledgeable lawyer. The trustee is personally liable for breaching their fiduciary duties. Their fiduciary duties include a duty of prudence, a duty of loyalty and subsidiary duties. The duty of prudence, for example, requires that a trustee is held to an objective standard of care in managing trust property. The duty of loyalty requires that the trustee administered the trust not with any concern for their own self-benefit but instead for the primary benefit of the beneficiaries.

Finally, subsidiary rules are associated with the duty of impartiality, such as not having any favoritism towards one person or class of beneficiary than another. The trustee also should not co-mingle their trust property and their personal property and has a responsibility to inform and provide accounting to beneficiaries. The trustee will always have these responsibilities or the trust becomes passive and legal title moves to the beneficiaries. In the event that a trustee has violated their duties, they could be held personally responsible for their actions.

This makes it all the more important to think about who you appoint in this important role of trustee but it also requires careful consideration if you are currently a beneficiary and believe that a trustee has already violated their fiduciary duty. It can be very hard to demonstrate in court that the trustee violated their fiduciary duty so you need to have ample evidence supporting this and consult with an attorney first so that you are clear about the next steps in your case. A trustee has the legal responsibility to administer the trust with the care and skill as a person of ordinary prudence would in dealing with his or her own trust. Beneficiaries might also consult with a lawyer if they believe that the trust itself was not procured legally, meaning that it was created as a result of undue influence or because they believe the trust document itself is invalid. These concerns should always be shared directly with an attorney who has appropriate experience in this area of the law.

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